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With The German Guns

Herbert Sulzbach
This is a cracking book by a quite unique individual. Herbert Sulzbach joined the German Army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War One, enlisting in the artillery (no-one’s perfect!). He served throughout the war, mainly on the Western Front, seeing fierce fighting throughout the conflict, being decorated twice for gallantry. In the 1930s, his Jewish ethnicity forced him to leave Germany for the UK (returning a year later to rescue his wife) and, at the start of World War Two, he was interned as an enemy alien. Subsequently, he was allowed to join the Pioneers (good man!) and was subsequently commissioned, working with POWs and spent the rest of his life trying to improve relations between UK and Germany. He was the only man to be commissioned by the Kaiser in WW1 and by King George VI in WW2, making him quite a remarkable man.

This book cover his experiences in WW1 from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28th June 1914, and his subsequent enlistment, to the end of the war in 1918 and his discharge on 8th December. It is a very honest book and, written as a diary, no attempt has been made to moderate views in any particular areas and, at times, some of the language can be a touch dated. The writer captures the camaraderie and spirit of the German Army during the war and especially captures the affinity between the various Arms and the mutual respect that existed, most notably between the infantry and the artillery. He neatly details how welcome he is made by the infantry when he moves into the trenches as an artillery observer with good communications (some things never change!).

He writes with compassion about his friends and comrades, and his sadness is readily apparent at casualties. You cannot help but feel for him at times as, on a number of occasions over four years of fighting, he lives whilst others die around him. At times, a sense of loneliness pervades the story and you do get the feeling that, at times, he thinks that he is the only one left, much akin to All Quiet on the Western Front.

His sadness at the defeat of the German Army is clear but it is clear that whilst the German Army may have been beaten in the field, its spirit in a number of its soldiers was still there and this is apparent in the forming of the various Corps to fight Communists and the way that the author regards them and his own sadness that his discharge brings him.

This is an excellent book that is an excellent description of the German soldier’s view of the war. It is quite superb and I recommend it to anyone interested in this period.
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